Oct. 28, 2021

The future of East Hampton Airport (HTO) continues to be in question as local officials consider options to curtail access to the east Long Island, NY facility following the Sept. 25 expiration of FAA grant assurances.

In an Oct. 19 work session, the East Hampton Town Board discussed proposals to determine the fate of the airport, including maintaining the status quo; negotiating user agreements on mandatory restrictions; and changing its designation to a publicly owned, private-use facility that would require the town’s permission for aircraft to utilize, a move that could drastically reduce the volume of helicopter, turbine and seaplane traffic at the airport.

The potential implementation of such restrictions at HTO is based on the belief the expiration of FAA grant assurances allows the town greater “local control” over its use and could also include curfews or other limitations at the airport. Outright closure is another option under consideration by town officials.

Alex Gertsen, NBAA’s director of airports and ground infrastructure, noted a number of steps remain before the board’s final decision on HTO. “It’s unlikely that they’ll keep the status quo, and all the options under consideration would appear to include restrictions that would impact business aircraft operations,” he said.

NBAA has long fought to preserve fixed-wing and helicopter operations at HTO. During an April 2015 attempt by the town to enact curfews and noise restrictions, the association joined with the Friends of East Hampton Airport and others to successfully argue such restrictions violated the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990, with the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately declining to hear an appeal by the town.

Operators continue to build on an already successful voluntary “Fly Neighborly” program in place at HTO over the years with the development of the “Pilot Pledge” initiative this year. “As in the past years, operator cooperation with the voluntary curfews, the over-water initiative and other aspects of the noise abatement procedures remains high,” said Gertsen.

Earlier this year, NBAA also joined with Helicopter Association International and the Eastern Regional Helicopter Council to help argue to a federal court judge that the town should not be allowed to prohibit Special VFR operations. The restriction is suspended while the case is pending.

Gertsen invited operators affected by potential access restrictions or closure of HTO to contact him at agertsen@nbaa.org and to become engaged in the process as NBAA continues its efforts to preserve access to the facility and works with the town and other local and national organizations to help shape the future of the airport.

Recorded East Hampton Town Board Work Session – Oct. 19